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Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غومة

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Sunday, 17 April, 2011

From Uprising to Civil War, to....?

By: Ghoma

        There's an old saying which says if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. You're going only to make it worse! That's where Libya is, now, in the dumps. The uprisings have slipped into a full-fledged civil war. Qaddafi may not have wanted the war but fear and panic had decided for him. Being in control of the army, he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger! Because war plays right into his hands. Consequently, Libyans were left with no other course except to ask for Heeeeelp! to defend themselves against his ferocious assaults. Hence the Nato's No-fly zone. But only those with an ax to grind with Qaddafi had responded to Libyans' SOS call. The West, once again is in control of Libya! A political crisis has been turned into a war and the war into a multi-national campaign. This set-up couldn't have been scripted better.

        This internationalization of a local crisis has set aside the real victims, the Libyans. Libya is now out of the hands of Libyans. Meetings in the name of Libya were held with no or scant presence of Libyans. Everybody else was welcomed to attend, except, of course, the ones for whom the gathering was all about, Libyans were not even in sight! Thus the fate of the country is now in the balance, a ball in the hands of diplomacy's hacks. The haggling will be between the so-called idealists, those driven by humanitarian concerns; and the pragmatists, or realists, those who hold interests come before principles. One side wants to intensify the intervention, while the other is eager to declare mission accomplished and cut short the losses.

        When a problem is internationalized pragmatic calculations soon overtake any other concerns. Resolve, will, and enthusiam of the coalition peak at the start only to start falling as time passes precipitously. Soon the grumblings will sound the usual moan: Now that we're here, let's find a way out of this mess. Because pragmatists' logic always sidesteps what matters most for what costs less.

        Libyan events had escalated with lightening speed and thus have not given enough time to think about what a good next step(s) would be. And when generals take over military reasons take over too and the uprising's motives get shuffled somewhere in the corners of operation rooms. No more time for asking why Libyans went to war in the first place, or what the war would do to Libya. War has its own logic and its calculation will prevale. War's immediate concerns will cast a heavy plume over the broader political concerns! If Libyans want nation-building, war then was never a prelude to such a project. Moreover, Libyans, at this point, have no capabilities to conduct a war.

        Generals are warmongers by definitio! That 's where they win their badges. And nations whch answer the call to war are usually the ones bent on fire and hell. Thus none of them will ever advise Libyans to get out and pour into the streets if they badly wanted their rights. Actually the media in those countries is reviving an old refrain these days about the social makeup of Libya, tribalistic. And as any attentive reader to Ibn Khaldun would have concluded tribalistic societies have something in common with the generals: both are not prone to the art of political haggling, instead they prefer the sword to arbiterate their disputes. That's why a nascent political struggle was soon converted into an irrational and twisted armed fight. One wishes that Libyans of all stripes have taken some deep breaths and reflected on whether it's better to spend their scarce energy on shooting at their incubus, or it's wiser to spend it on figuring out a way to kick out the dictator without, in the process, destroying the country too!

        Iraq's fiasco still looms large on the horizon of the area. Iraqi's way of getting rid of its dictator, by inviting the world to do it for them, has left a sour taste all over. Thus Iraq's model of 'liberation' was universally condemned, as well as abhorred. Many Arabs have thought, Iraq was an aberration, a bizarre case in history, an anomaly to the principles of liberation struggle, and an exception to political commonsense. Thus Iraq came to cast a heavy and suspicious shadow, not only on how to deal with a dictator, but above all whom to ask for help. Iraq's fiasco clearly, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, has discredited the idea of a country's liberation by outsiders. Iraq has, therefore, instituted the model which should never be emulated! But lo and behold! it didn't take long before that exception, for all practical purposes, have peeked its head, from all place on earth, in Libya!

        But, as they say, we're here now! Nato's intervention may have done some levelling to the war's plane but has yet to tip the balance of power, between the regime and the uprisers, to a noteceable slant. Qaddafi is still holding most of the cards in this war. Beside controlling the state and its army, he also controls most of the population, oil exporting facilities, and the pulpit's power. The National Transitional Council controls about 15 to 20% of the population, no army and no resources. This situation has no other way to go except to an impasse, a stalemate around Ajdabiya! How this will work out and in whose advantages a standstill works, are still to be seen. In the short-run most probably a stalemate works in favor of the regime, and in the long-run, your guess is as good as mine, we'll all be dead, as the saying goes...?

        In the past the fight for freedom had taken many paths but the armed ones were the least conducive. Algeria, Vietnam, and Cuba may have had defeated their enemies in the battlefields, but their people are still struggling to gain their freedoms. Their experiences had shown the rest of the world that battlefileds may succeed in kicking one entrenched group from power but never to decide if the next group will be more democratic. In the absence of day-to-day activism, people's struggle for freedom will miss the schooling which imparts the values of initiative, creativity, and above all citizenship. Thus if the objective for the battle for Libya is freedom, democracy and the rest of all the other nine yards, then Libyans have to find a way to outsmart Qaddafi in the political arena rather than in the battlefields.

        War plays to Qaddafi's advantages. He's no dummy when it comes to survival. That's why he's turned the crisis into war and thus baited the opposition into his trap. Wars are generally won, not by whoever has better principles, but by whoever has more resources to outspend the other side. Qaddafi's resources are still sizable.

        The extent of Qaddafi's intimidation and contempt for Libyans is clear from the way he's conducting his war: the scorched earth strategy. Qaddafi knows there ain't many good options left for him out there. Thus he's probably made his mind, if he's to go, then the whole country must go too! As well be ruined. The battle-cry of: "On me and on my enemies," is no stranger to the culture. From the days of Ali and Muawiyah down to the present, each new-comer had inherited a ruined country, a tabula rasa to start all over again. Therefore, we must do our best to deny Qaddafi his strategy of self as well as the whole country's destruction. If for no other reasons, then, inheriting a ruined country is no prescription for democracy to set roots.

        If tribalistic warfare and the logic of destruction are to be stopped in Libya the time then is now. Civilization is built on slow but steady accretion and accumulation of experiences. And because Libyans have never wanted to go to war nor have a stomach for one, then the commonsensical thing to do is to find a way to turn the fight back to where it was supposed to be, in the political arena. Dictatorship can only be dismantled when it's defeated politically, not militarily. Its defeat can only come by chipping away at its edges bit by bit. If people would withdraw their allegiance andf support, stop cooperating, and shy away from anything to do with the regime, then this regime would lose the oxygen which keeps it alive, and sooner or later will be choked to death.

        The question remains how to bring Qaddafi to play a game different from the one he knows to play. If violence is his game, then Libyans should avoid violence by all means. Libyans must read few pages on the principles of civil disobedience. Thus they should concentrate more on how to force Qaddafi to come to the political arena, without giving him advantages he can use to stay longer, rather than on how to defeat his army. A regime like Qaddafi's, will not last long when facing, day in and day out, an angry multitude. The crowd in the streets are nerve wracking in the best of conditions and close to lethal when dealing with an egomaniac like Qaddafi.

        How to achieve such a tactic without damaging the overall strategy, that of changing the regime? The thinknig must steer away from looking where to find or how to secure some effective weapons (light to carry and easy to operate to use against his tanks and armed carriers) but rather to concentrate on how to change the game and stop the war. If Qaddafi is a lost case, then the continuation of war can only damage Libya and Libayns! That's why a search for a ceasefire must be the priority number one. In this way the uprisers will gain the moral higher ground, not being seen as a bunch of refusiniks, but rather a genuine peaceful seekers and marchers for freedom's sake. In rejecting every intiative that doesn't include, in advance, what supposed to be the end game, the departure of the unholy family, is prologing the agony of war! If there're to be conditions for a ceasefire then they must be the breaking up of the current sieges to many cities and towns in the western part of the country and the withdrawal of all combatants from urban areas. Any condition must include the clause: Armed forces must return to their barracks. Neutralizing the military must be the priority number one for the uprisers and for the future of Libya. The armed forces are mostly Libyans and thus we've to remind, and/or persuade them, of their loyalties are first to the country not to the regime.

        Once a ceasefire is secured, then, the real fight starts. By urging people to disobey the regime: not to go to work, not to go to school, not to cooperate in any meangingful way with the regime, etc. and to get out to the streets and squares and live there if need be. If millions pour out into the streets all over the country, as people in Tunisia and in Egypt have done, and as Yemenis, Bahrainis, Syrians, etc. are doing now, then Qaddafi and his cronies will lose their newly discovered faked patina of nationalism: of selling themselves as resisting the new wave of Western imperialism and fighting for the independence of Libya. And because wars are waged first in the minds before they were fought on battlefileds. Therefore, tearing away at the already tattered mantle of patriotism Qaddafi is wearing these days will not only expose him for what he's, a naked killer and criminal; but also is the best winning strategy for the undeclared war for the hearts and minds of Libyans. Thus criminalizing the regime and taking away what 's been left to blame will deny Qaddafi any excuses not to evacuate.


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